by Hank Morris
The first Rogers Park Library was a private one established in 1874 in the Old Doland block on Clark Street. It was opened by the Rogers Park Woman’s Club, who worked as librarians and books were donated until 1917.
In 1905, the Chicago Public Library took over the Rogers Park collection and provided a deposit station with additional books from the Central Library. Service continued on this basis until 1917.
In December 1917, a circulating branch was opened on Clark Street near Morse Avenue in a rented store. By 1922, it had outgrown its home and moved to 1731 W. Greenleaf Avenue, just east of Clark Street. It served the community at this location during the Roaring Twenties, the Depression Years and into the the Post War era. At this location for nearly thirty years, it was a familiar sites to a generation of adults and children in Rogers Park.
In August of 1928, 21,827 books were loaned, 2,000 more books than any previous period. A remarkable achievement for the time.
RP Library 6957 N. Clark St
RP Library 6957 N. Clark St
In 1929, the North Shore News proposed a new library as the one on Greenleaf was inadequate. However, it remained there through the Depression and the post war era. During the Depression, the library found it necessary to appeal for donations of books. At one time, the city wanted to close the library.
A disastrous fire struck on January 30, 1951, ending the library’s tenure at that location. That night was the coldest in 15 years. Though the library was next door to the Fire Station, it burned since it was so cold the hydrants were frozen. Damage was $45,000. Fortunately, although the library’s furniture and building’s interior were completely destroyed, nearly 8,000 books were out in circulation at the time and local businesses set up stations for their return. The staff carried on in emergency space donated by the Great Northern Laundry and schools gave space fo rthe continuation of the children’s library activities.
It reopened in the following September (1952) in a redecorated store front at 7015 N. Clark Street. Formal dedication services were held on October 28 with the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and the late Leo Lerner as principal speakers.
It wasn’t until 1958 that the first library-owned building was erected at 6911 N. Clark Street.
Rogers Park became one of the busiest branches in the system. Between 1958 and 1968, over 2.779,800 books were circulated. In 1986, the number was approximately 192,000 volumes per year.
The library served the community until 1998 when it was razed to make way for a new facility.
On Tuesday, June 8, 1999 the Chicago Public Library dedicated the new Rogers Park Branch Library at 6907 N. Clark Street. The new library had an expanded collection for children, young adults, on-line reference databases, internet access, educational media, a meeting room, and more.
The opening of this multi-million dollar facility was a dream come true for the Firends of the Rogers Park Library who had been working since 1990 to secure a new building.